Ticks are an ever-growing concern in the Bay area. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are becoming more prevalent for both us and our pets. Luckily, there are plenty of ways we can protect ourselves from these dangerous critters while enjoying the great outdoors.
Ticks in San Mateo County
We have about 21 types of ticks in San Mateo county, but only three are vectors of tick-borne illness:
- The Western black-legged tick (Lyme disease, anaplasmosis)
- Pacific Coast tick (Rocky Mountain spotted fever)
- American dog tick (Rocky Mountain spotted fever)
These ticks are active all year round in our area, so constant vigilance is important. Even if a tick does bite you or your pet, it’s difficult to contract disease. The CDC estimates that it takes several hours of feeding on their host for the tick to actually transmit disease. The sooner you find them and remove them, the less likely you are to contract an infection.
Preventing Tick Bites
Ticks find their hosts by “questing,” which means they lie in wait on the tips of grass blades and leaves along common paths. When a human or animal brushes up against their hiding place, the tick latches on. Some may bite their host right away, while others will wander and look for a suitable feeding place. To prevent them from attaching at all, follow these tips for you and your pet:
- Always make sure your pet is current on their parasite prevention medication. Preventatives that deter fleas often deter ticks, too. These medicines can prevent bites altogether and even if a tick does bite, it will kill the tick soon after, reducing the risk of your pet becoming infected.
- Treat your clothing with permethrin and/or use a tick repellant when in areas where ticks are known to be.
- Wear light-colored clothing so you can more easily see any ticks who have hitched a ride.
- Wear long-sleeves and long pants if possible and tuck everything in to reduce skin exposure.
- Take the time to check your pet and yourself for ticks frequently when outdoors, and always after you come in from being outside.
- Walk in the center of wooded trails to avoid brushing up against any grass or brush that may have ticks questing on them.
- Remove attached ticks as soon as possible.
Interested in more holiday pet safety advice or have questions? Contact us today!
Safe Removal of Ticks
If you find a tick on your pet or yourself, remove it following these steps:
- Grab the tick with fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull straight up with even pressure to keep the tick’s body from tearing.
- Place the tick in a sealable container if you intend to have it identified or tested. Or, simply flush it down the toilet.
- Disinfect the bite site and the tweezers and wash your hands with soap and water.
- Watch the bite area for signs of infection and be aware of any changes in your pet’s behavior.
- Contact your veterinarian right away if your pet shows signs of illness.
Please contact Colma Animal Hospital at (650) 756-1753 if you have any questions or concerns about tick protection!